When was the last time you read an article on BBC News without a photo? Can you tell me when a Guardian tweet without an accompanying pic caught your attention and made you click through?

Photos are absolutely vital to the media – they convey messages, attract attention and drive eyeballs to newspapers, magazines and online articles.

Don’t just take my word for it, here’s what freelance journalist and writer Jenny Brookfield (@BrookfieldJenny) had to say on the subject:

“Action shots rather than head shots will always make the cut for me. If you have a manufacturing business then let’s see a picture of your product being made; if you’re a construction business then send a photographer down to a building site to snap work in progress or show us your most striking building from a nice angle. 

“Head shots on flat white backgrounds don’t tend to excite designers so go and stand on your shopfloor or in your factory if you’re having profile pictures taken. Tech companies often struggle when it comes to pictures so it’s worth having a think about how best you could illustrate what you do so you have something ready for when journalists ask the question. Finally, make sure the pictures you’re sending are hi-res. Journalists don’t always have time to come back to you to ask for a larger version and you’ll have more chance of getting better coverage if you send the best version first time.” 

So why is it that photos are so often seen as an afterthought by PR professionals and clients?

I’ve been lucky to work with some fantastic clients who invest time and resources into photography. It makes my job so much easier when we have good quality imagery to work with. On the other hand, I’ve also lost count of the number of blurry, shadowy and ‘plants growing out of head’ shots I’ve been pinged across to “work my magic on”.

Let’s take a feature magazine article with several quotes coming from experts as an example – where there may be up to five people quoted in the article. Unfortunately not everyone reads every word in the article, we skim focusing on any pull out boxes, concluding statements and photos…

In the feature there may be two highlighted pull out quotes. These two will be chosen because they are powerful statements that match the brief; it is our job as PR pros to produce quotes just like these. Then there’s the photo – the editor and subs won’t want to use five bland headshots. They may only have space to feature three images. So, what’s going through their mind when they select the photo?

Here are three tips to make your photo stand out from the crowd:

Size (& res) matters

The size and resolution is so important, anything above 1MB and a 300 DPI (dots per inch) is where you want to be. This is especially important in print as low size and resolution images will result in the images becoming pixelated when blown up (see above!).

It’s not one photo fits all

Does the photo convey the message you are sending out? A professional headshot may be acceptable to announce a new appointment to your organisation but would you use the same photo to talk about a new product launching after months of R&D? Oh, and that appointment announcement – surely one of the reasons why appointment announcements are made is to attract and retain staff. Does a bland grey, headshot portray a creative and fun place to work? Think about the message you want a photo to communicate about your organisation.

Make it interesting

Journalists have seen enough thumbs up, grip and grins (with accompanying jumbo cheque) and cake cutting photos to wallpaper their entire newsroom. Interesting photos make a story; something that shows your personality and is original will go far. Think creatively: the best photos aren’t headshots, they are interesting shots that tell a story. Could you take something out in the field that demonstrates a product in action?

The key point to remember is: don’t see photography as an afterthought. The more time and resource you invest in it the better outcomes it will generate.